Grief: Loose Cannon on Deck

A loose cannon conjures images of a weapon wildly firing in all directions, but it actually refers to a cannon on the deck of a ship. Cannons needed to be lashed down, but in turbulent waters, cannons sometimes came loose and rolled around the deck. Their great weight (some weighed as much as 1800 lbs!) made those loose cannons a dangerous liability and they could crush a hapless sailor who got in the way.

That’s exactly the way grief feels. Every time you feel as if you’re getting a solid footing despite the turbulence of your new life, whack! That cannon comes loose and crushes you again.

It would be so much easier if the so-called stages of grief were actually stages that you can check off after you’ve experienced it. Denial. Check. Pain. Check. Anger. Check. Depression. Check. Acceptance. Check.

All done, right?


After you’ve gone through the list, there it comes again, the pain or the anger or the disbelief that he is gone, and you have to do it all over again. Add to that the innumerable stages that aren’t commonly known such as isolation, anxiety, low self-esteem, confusion, panic, frustration, hopelessness, loneliness, bitterness, missing the person, fretfulness, hanging on, waiting for you know not what, and dozens of others. Not everyone who has experienced a significant loss goes through all the stages, but no matter what, we’ve all felt that loose cannon and wish we could just tie the dang thing up and get on with our lives.

So we do.

And then, comes another storm, there’s that loose cannon again.

Can you sense the pettishness of my tone? Must be another stage I’ve never heard of. Well, check this one off, too.

4 Responses to “Grief: Loose Cannon on Deck”

  1. joylene Says:

    Loose cannon? I never thought of it like that before, but you’re right, it’s exactly that.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    I remember that feeling of panic that would sneak up and suddenly manifest out of nowhere making my heart pound and flutter. If that frightening sensation hadn’t resolved quickly, I’d have been put in a padded room. Yes, grief is awful, but the good thing is that you will eventually gain control. You will not always be at the mercy of the loose cannon marauder. Like a polite visitor, it will call on you only when you allow it. Gradually you will stop being ambushed.

    Until then, the busier you are, the less time you spend thinking about your grief. This sounds like a good plan (I’m sure it’s not a bad plan), but it could be that the grief you avoid with busyness may pile up to become the loose cannon marauder. Even so, you will finally win, but it takes time and space. I think you are doing well, Pat. My heart goes out to you.

  3. leesis Says:

    there will come a time when the cannon will be well and truly mounted but it does take a couple of years.

    I think the mind is actually looking after us…allowing us rests between the crashes otherwise it would truly overwhelm us. We need the space to self nuture…or prepare the railing if you like.

    And yes there is so much more to the grief process…the stages do not run in a line but rather I think in a circle hence we move between them. I think it such a significant point you make Pat. Folk expect once they have past anger they wont revisit and I think this sets them up to resist when it comes again…for surely it does.
    with hugs

  4. Laina Says:

    That is a very good way to present it as it brings up a good mental picture even if the topic isn’t something we want to think about.

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